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How To Cook Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are an essential and staple ingredient in several Asian dishes ranging from Chinese food to Thai dishes and everything in between. 

These simple noodles are made of two main ingredients, rice flour and water. The beauty of this simple and gluten-free noodle is that it is versatile and a great item to have on hand. It’s great in pad thai as well as several soups and stir frys. 

However, if not cooked correctly, you’ll be left disappointed with a hot mushy mess. 

You cook rice noodles by first soaking them in water to hydrate them and then adding them to your favorite recipes. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to cooking your rice noodles. It can vary depending on the type of rice noodle you are cooking with.

Rice Noodles

Credits: Bakd&Raw by Karolin Baitinger

For a guide on how to cook the best rice noodles possible, read our pro tips and cooking instructions below. You’ll be cooking the best Asian cuisine in no time!

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Identifying Rice Noodles 

Rice noodles come in a variety of types and styles and sizes. Various dishes call for different types, but don’t be afraid to mix things up! Just because Pad Thai typically uses wider noodles, it doesn’t mean you can’t use what you have on hand. 

The main difference between the types of rice noodles can be found in the width of the noodle itself. Most rice noodles in the United States are sold in a fresh and dried state. However, you can find fresh rice noodles in refrigerated sections of Asian markets as well. 

The biggest obstacle in identifying the type of rice noodles you’re looking at is that many countries have a variety of names for the noodles they use. In the U.S., you typically see them called rice noodles or rice sticks. 

The packaging of the noodles can also make identifying the noodles hard as they very rarely identify the type of rice noodles contained within them. Even if they did, many packages come in different languages which can be a major obstacle in identifying the noodles as well. 

Types Of Rice Noodles

So, how do you exactly figure out what the various types of rice noodles are out there and which ones you choose for your dish? 

Type of NoodleDescription
Very ThinThis type of noodle is comparable to angel hair pasta. They can also be referred to as vermicelli noodles. 
ThinMeasure roughly ⅛ of an inch wide and can be either round like spaghetti or flat in style like linguini. They can be called Pad Thai rice noodles. 
MediumThese noodles measure roughly ¼ inch wide and can often be called Stir Fry and/or Pad Thai noodles. They typically look like linguine noodles in width but can measure as wide as fettuccine noodles. 
WideThese rice noodles measure in width similarly to pappardelle pasta. They are used in dishes such as Pad See Ew. 

Brown rice noodles are also available in U.S. markets and can be identified by the chart above and cooked and prepared similarly. 

How To Cook Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are much harder to cook than their wheat counterparts. This is because they are more fragile and delicate. However, this also means that they can be easier to prepare. 

There isn’t one right way to prepare rice noodles. There are many different, but similar, ways to prepare them. Once you try them all out, you can figure out which method works best for you. You can use the following method to get started. 

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. 
  2. Turn off the heat. 
  3. Pour the boiling water over the dry rice noodles. 
  4. Make sure all the rice noodles are completely submerged in the boiled water. 
  5. Cover the submerged noodles. 
  6. Every few minutes give the noodles a stir to soften them and separate them. 
  7. Leave the noodles submerged for 6 to 10 minutes. 
  8. Test the noodles once they are limp to test their doneness. 
  9. Test the noodles frequently as they can turn mushy quickly. Thinner noodles will be ‘done’ quicker than wider noodles. 
  10. When noodles are done, drain the container.
  11. Run the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process. 
  12. Pro tip: if possible, toss the noodles with sesame oil to keep them from sticking together. 

Additional Tips On Cooking The Perfect Rice Noodles

We’ve outlined the basics of how to cook rice noodles above, but there are a few other pro tips that can help you cook the best rice noodles. 

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Think about the end product. If you’re cooking pad thai and/or stir fry, you’ll want to undercook the noodles a little bit. Your noodles will absorb moisture while you heat them in the dish along with the other ingredients, which means you can easily overcook them which means mushy noodles!

Soups. When cooking soups, you can soak and cook the rice noodles directly within the broth. Add the noodles right before serving to ensure they don’t overcook. 

Sesame Oil. Even if you do add sesame oil to your dish to prevent your noodles from clumping together, they may still do so if you wait too long to use them in your dish. Once you add those noodles to your dish they should loosen. 

Taste Test. Don’t forget to taste test your noodles to test the texture. Your noodles haven’t cooked long enough if they are stiff or hard to chew. They should be able to wrap around your finger but not fall apart. Remember in some dishes your noodles will continue to cook, so remember to keep that in mind when testing for texture. 

 Ways To Cook Rice Noodles

Credits: Yeh Xintong

Other Ways To Cook Rice Noodles

There are still other ways you can cook your rice noodles dependent on the end dish you’re cooking. 

Cold Water. You can ‘cook’ your noodles by soaking them in cold water. This may take several hours and can be easy to over ‘cook.’ 

Warm Water. Instead of using boiling water, you can use warm tap water. Using warm tap water, soak your noodles for up to 30 minutes. This method cooks the noodles slower which means it’s harder to overcook them and make them too soft. 

Quick Boil. You can also quickly boil your noodles by putting them directly into a pot and boiling them for anywhere between 2 and 6 minutes. Be very careful with this method as the noodles can very quickly overcook. 

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How Do You Know When Rice Noodles Are “Done” Cooking? 

You know your noodles are done when they are chewy and tender or el dente. You know your noodles are overcooked when they have the same texture as overcooked Italian pasta. Overcooked rice noodles also tend to stick together and/or easily fall apart. 

Are Rice Noodles Gluten-Free?

Yes, rice noodles are gluten-free. Rice noodles have only two ingredients, rice flour and water, which make them a great gluten-free option for those who have gluten intolerances or sensitivities. 

Are Rice Noodles A Healthy Noodle Option?

Rice noodles can be a very healthy noodle option in a variety of dishes. In fact, rice noodles are a great alternative to potatoes in gnocchi or wheat in Italian pastas. 

It’s important to note that rice noodles are different than cellophane noodles or glass noodles. Cellophane noodles and glass noodles may look the same, but are very different. Glass and cellophane noodles use starch from tapioca, potatoes, and/or mung bean. 

Are Rice Sticks The Same As Rice Noodles?

Generally, rice sticks and rice noodles are the same thing. They are the same thing in consistency and texture. The main difference is the length of the rice noodle. Rice stick noodles are generally packaged in shorter lengths than traditional rice noodles. 

How Are Rice Noodles Made?

First, rice is put in storage and is aged for up to 9 months. The rice is then fermented by placing clean rice into water to steep for several days. The wet rice is then ground in a mill to produce the flour. Boiling water is added to the rice flour to gelatinize the flour into a dough. This dough is forced through a mold to form the noodles. They can also be pressed into sheets and cut to form wider, flat noodles. 

8 Healthy Rice Noodle Recipes 

Because rice noodles are gluten-free and lower in calories and carbs than other types of noodles, they can be included in a variety of healthy recipes. Some of the best healthy rice noodle recipes are found below:

Chicken Or Shrimp Stir Fry: Stir fry recipes with rice noodles are typically quick to prepare and easy to put together. You can easily substitute chicken with other lean meats or seafood

Singapore Rice Noodles: Singapore rice noodles are one of the more popular rice noodle dishes. It includes both shrimp and pork. If you can’t find Chinese pork, substitute it for ham.

Garlicky Pad See Ew: Are you a garlic lover? This recipe is for you! It’s quick and delicious. Pad see ew uses wider rice noodles in this traditional dish. It’s a simple ingredient dish, featuring pre-made sauces, broccoli, wide rice noodles, and chicken (or other meat). 

Vegan Drunken Noodles: This is a great veggie-filled option and is even vegan! These spicy, saucy noodles are bursting with a colorful blend of vegetables, including a variety of bell peppers, green cabbage, and even green onions. 

Coconut Lime Noodle Soup: For a soup option, try this delicious coconut lime noodle soup. It is creamy, spicy, fresh, and very savory! It’s similar to Thai coconut soup. 

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup: If you like chicken noodle soup, try this recipe. This is the Thai take on this classic comfort soup. You can even utilize leftover turkey or check for this soup making it easy to prepare. 

Brown Rice Vermicelli Noodles & Shiitake Mushrooms: This quick and easy dish uses brown rice noodles. This simple recipe uses fresh shiitake mushrooms with bok choy and can be fully vegetarian if you replace fish sauce with soy sauce. 

Rice Noodle Salad With Chili-Lime Vinaigrette: Rice noodles can also be used for cold salads. This recipe features a unique chili-lime vinaigrette and would be great to bring for pot luck during warmer months. 

How Do You Cook Rice Noodles For Spring Rolls?

Rice noodles are used in a number of popular noodles, but one of the most popular that aren’t stir frys or soups are spring rolls. The idea of putting together the ingredients and then wrapping the perfect spring roll can seem intimidating, but it can be a simple recipe to enjoy. 

You can bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Place vermicelli rice noodles in the boiling water and boil for 3 to 5 minutes or until they are el dente in texture. 

Place a wrapper into warm water and then lay flat. In the middle of the wrapper, place shrimp halves, a handful of the cooked rice noodles, basil, cilantro, and lettuce. Leave two inches around the filling. 

Fold the sides of the wrapper inward and tightly roll the wrapper until it closes. Serve the finished spring rolls with your favorite dipping sauces. 

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How Do You Store Rice Noodles?

If you have leftover rice noodles, you should store them carefully to ensure that you store them correctly so you can enjoy them later. 

If your noodles have already been soaked or cooked, then transfer them into a shallow, airtight container. You can also store them in a zip lock bag that also has a seal.

After putting them in the proper container, place your noodles in the fridge. They will stay good for 3 to 4 days this way. If you want them to last longer, you can freeze them. 

To keep the noodles from clumping together while you store them, rinse them in cold water, pat them dry and then drizzle a little sesame oil over them.

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